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Obama Sends Message with Sochi Delegation

The U.S. delegation to Russia’s Sochi Olympics will feature no high profile politicians and several openly gay athletes.

AP (“Obama selects gay athletes for Sochi delegation):

President Barack Obama sent Russia a clear message about its treatment of gays and lesbians with who he is — and isn’t — sending to represent the United States at the Sochi Olympics.

Billie Jean King will be one of two openly gay athletes in the U.S. delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies, Obama announced Tuesday. For the first time since 2000, however, the U.S. will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Games.

Russia has come under fierce criticism for passing national laws banning “gay propaganda.” Though the White House did not specifically address the Russian laws in making its announcement, spokesman Shin Inouye said the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States” and that Obama “knows they will showcase to the world the best of America — diversity, determination and teamwork.”

The White House said Obama’s schedule will not permit him to attend the Games.

“It’s a positive sign to see openly gay representatives in the delegation,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which recently sent a letter urging Obama to include gays and lesbians in the delegation. “Hopefully it sends a message to the Russian people and the rest of the world that the United States values the civil and human rights of LGBT people.”

King said she was “deeply honored” to be named to the delegation.

“I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,” said King, who will attend the opening ceremony.

Hockey player Caitlin Cahow is the other openly gay representative to the delegation. She’ll attend the closing ceremony.

The U.S. Olympic Committee made no comment about the sexual orientation of the delegation. In a nod to its disapproval of the law, however, the USOC recently revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

France and Germany are among the other countries who will not send their presidents to Sochi for the Games.

This is brilliant messaging, simultaneously snubbing Putin’s increasingly retrograde regime while making a bold statement about human rights. King, of course, is almost without question the most important openly gay athlete. The only quibble about her selection would be that she was not an Olympian, since tennis wasn’t an Olympic sport in her heyday. She did, however, coach to US women’s team after her prime as a player.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Well done POTUS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. Franklin says:

    Not a bad idea. Not bad at all. I wonder if this will get any discussion going in Russia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. James Pearce says:

    She did, however, coach to US women’s team after her prime as a player.

    That counts.

    I think it’s a good move, but if he really wanted to send a message, he could have done so on White House letterhead. Points for subtlety, I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Between this move and the handling of China’s bogus ADIZ declaration (warning civilian planes away while deliberately sending in military aircraft), it’s nice to see that Obama isn’t a total eff-up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Well done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. stonetools says:

    When even Doug and Jenos agree that Obama did the right thing….
    We might really be in the end times.

    Well done, Mr. President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: Obama occasionally gets things right. These times, though, it wasn’t in spite of himself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Pretty good move…for an “average” President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. george says:


    Not a bad idea. Not bad at all. I wonder if this will get any discussion going in Russia.

    I doubt it – from what I’ve heard, as in most major countries external criticism of Russia tends to gather the wagons in a circle more than anything else (think about how the US responds to criticism from other countries). Carter’s boycott of the Moscow Olympics for example just led to the USSR’s boycott of the LA Olympics.

    But it was the right thing to do anyway – the important message wasn’t to Russia (they’re going to see it as partisan attack), but to US citizens.

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